Sellout for Taste of Sonoma
Published: Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 7:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 7:04 p.m.
More than 200 wineries and chefs attracted a sold-out crowd of 2,500 at the Taste of Sonoma during an afternoon of near-perfect weather Saturday at the historic MacMurray Ranch.
The arrival of Indian summer provided a warm reception for guests who came from across the country for the signature event of the three-day, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.
The Taste of Sonoma appears to have finally arrived on the food-and-wine map, selling out for the first time in its 31-year-history.
“It's the best food and wine tasting in Sonoma County,” said Honore Comfort, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners, which along with the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers sponsored the wine weekend.
“It's our biggest day, and an opportunity to come and enjoy the very best of what Sonoma County has to offer.”
Despite the crowd, the parking went smoothly as many people arrived early. Buses from major hotels around the county picked up folks who decided not to drive.
“We took a shuttle from the Hilton,” said Geri Fitzgerald of Santa Rosa. “For $15, it's a bargain.”
The crowd was a blend of young and old, locals and tourists, dressed casually in sundresses and sandals, shorts and straw hats.
The afternoon included wine talks in the Wine Barn, a retrospective exhibit of the 150-year-old ranch, a
A steel drum band performed at the entrance to the marketplace, where guests sampled heirloom tomatoes, local brews and raspberry-limoncello lemonade.
“We're having fun,” said Fred Groth, co-founder of Limoncello di Sonoma. “We're the only spirit here - among all the wineries - and we're trying to keep people cool.
This year, the excitement at the grill station was ratcheted up a notch, with local chefs and vintners demonstrating lamb, beef and seafood cooking.
“Grilling is interactive and fun,” said Chris Hanna, president of Hanna Winery, who demonstrated a lamb dish from her new cookbook. “There have been lines and lines of people, and everybody loves the lamb, especially the red wine lovers.”
The majority of the chefs and vintners were grouped together under the four appellation tents, where eight chefs and eight winerise were paired together for the first time,
As part of that new pairing program, chef/owner Lucas Martin of K&L Bistro offered a Vietnamese-style sandwich made with a slab of
By 1:30 p.m., Martin was already running low on the sandwiches. Jeff Mall of Zin restaurant also sold out early after serving 1,600 portions of his Honey-Cured Ham Biscuits.
The Sonoma Steel Chef Competition, with four contestants competing in four rounds, also broke ground this year with a few firsts.
The final round between Janine Falvo of Carneros Bistro in Sonoma and Jack Mitchell of Jack & Tony's in Santa Rosa featured all-vegetarian mystery ingredients, plus Sonoma eggs.
“That vegetarian course was hard,” Falvo said. “I got a beet and a potato and a rutabaga.”
The contestants both admitted playing up to the judging panel, which included the last-minute surprise addition of French chef Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys and The Burger Bar in San Francisco.
While Mitchell wowed the judges with his Potato Pancakes with Poached Eggs, Falvo impressed them by gently scrambling the eggs and putting them back in the shell.
For the first time, the judges decided to declare the cook-off a tie. Afterwards, the chefs headed back to their restaurants exprecting to cook for full houses.
“There's an extra 2,000 people in the county this weekend,” Mitchell said. “And this is why they are here.”
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